No matter how many big shots Duke came up with late in the second half of its 77-75 loss to No. 7 Kansas, the top-ranked team couldn’t undo some pretty costly damage it allowed after halftime.
Kansas (1-1) strung together a 15-5 run after trailing 34-29 at halftime.
Then, guard Frank Mason III sunk the game-winner with 3 seconds left, the cherry on top of his second-half heroics. Mason led Kansas with 21 points and five assists.
He drove as he pleased after halftime in Tuesday’s Champions Classic at Madison Square Garden, clinching Kansas’ first lead of the half and scoring a layup off his own steal to force the largest lead of the game at 62-50 with with 8:03 left. Kansas outscored Duke, 12-0, on fastbreak points.
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“I called a timeout after 10 minutes because we made three really bad defensive mistakes that were easy,” Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said. “If you’re doing that on defense, then your offense isn’t going to run. We just weren’t good for about 10 minutes, then all of a sudden, boom, we were good, then we were really good.”
Kansas freshman Udoka Azubuike only had six points, but crashed the boards for a game-best 12 rebounds. He had four on the offensive end, including a couple of key grabs during what turned out to be Kansas’ victory stretch.
Their backcourt, it’s a big-time backcourt. Those two kids are just so solid. Those two guards are terrific guards. I thought they really knocked us back at the start of the second half.
The Jayhawks scored 32 points in the paint in the second half to Duke’s 14. Freshman forward Josh Jackson contributed there, scoring 15 as one of three Kansas players to finish in double figures; he and Duke forward Amile Jefferson both fouled out in a foul-heavy game.
Azubuike missed a layup, overpowered defenders for the rebound and a putback, giving the Jayhawks one of seven 10-point leads they’d have in the second half.
Their veteran backcourt of Mason and Raleigh’s own Devonte’ Graham helped outscore Duke 12-0 in fastbreak points.
“Their backcourt, it’s a big-time backcourt,” Krzyzewski said. “Those two kids are just so solid. Those two guards are terrific guards. I thought they really knocked us back at the start of the second half. It’s our first game really against that level, and they knocked us back.”
Duke cruised to wins over Marist and Grand Canyon to start its season, while Kansas dropped its opener in overtime to Indiana on Friday.
The Jayhawks let Indiana drive the lane, but contained Duke’s explosive player Grayson Allen. He scored 12 points on 4-of-15 shooting to match Amile Jefferson’s point total; Luke Kennard led all with 22 points.
“I think Grayson had a very frustrating game,” Krzyzewski said. “You can’t expect to get a foul. He’s got to a point where he makes a move, and it’s a good move, and he expects a foul. You can’t do that. The last two minutes, he moved well and he’s playing hard when he gets the ball. He needs to play harder when he doesn’t have the ball, which is what he did the last few minutes. That’s a good player. They played really good defense on Grayson.”
Jessika Morgan: 919-829-4538, @JessikaMorgan